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Exploding Customer - At Tampere Jazz Happening

Stephen Griffith, Paris Transatlantic

Despite all the clutter on the Internet, it can occasionally perform a useful function: in January 2005, a solitary poster started a thread on a bulletin board titled “I want more Exploding Customer”, knowing that Jan Ström, the affable head of the Ayler label, was a frequent participant. Shortly afterwards, Ström replied that even though the sales of the 2002 Live at Glenn Miller Café (Ayler 030) were such a “catastrophe” that the recording of a 2003 concert was shelved, a November 2004 tour produced music that went “direct into the soul” and “must be released whatever it will cost us”. Would that were the prevailing attitude at all labels!

This music is as in-your-face as the group’s name implies, though it’s also capable of nuance and a slower burn. The sax/trumpet/bass/drums lineup and “break down the barriers” attitude bring Ornette’s original quartet to mind, and when the twining trumpet and alto sax play a Middle Eastern-flavoured theme there's also a strong hint of Zorn's Masada project. But the players in this group have a collective sound – call it “Scandinavian Soul” – that sets them apart from such models.

Martin Küchen’s blaring tenor and alto sax work is in stark contrast to his work with the more introspective Unsolicited Music Ensemble, as he dispenses with sweet niceties and barges into the themes and solos. Trumpeter Tomas Hallonsten supplements his prodigious chops with impressive plunger work, and Kjell Nordeson comes with a full resumé, including work on drums and vibes with the AALY Trio and School Days – here he leaves his vibes behind to concentrate on dancing rhythms in conjunction with bassist Benjamin Quigley, adeptly navigating the twists and turns of Küchen’s compositions.

Live at Tampere Jazz Happening has more of a “rock” feel to it than the band's debut: faster tempos, shorter songs and more between-song patter by Küchen. The songs run the gamut of tempos and moods, but a playful spontaneous chaos is the underlying constant. Two pieces, “Quoting Frippe: (What’s The Name of The Bass Player?)” and “A Broken Glass”, are repeated from the earlier release, and it's hard to choose between the different versions, though here “Quoting Frippe” has a nifty surprise ending, fading out with a nice “Lonely Woman”-ish bit.

Heartfelt madcap music like this makes me smile no matter how often I hear it. Both this album and Live at Glenn Miller Café are highly recommended.